Zimbabwe; Genetic Modification Poses a Threat to Indigenous Seeds
BYLINE: The Daily News
Indigenous seeds in the Southern African Development (Sadc) are threatened with extinction following the
introduction of the
genetically modified (GM)
technology and international property rights supporting the patenting of
indigenous seed varieties by
Charles Nkomo, acting director at the Sadc Plant Genetic Resource Center (SPGRC), told journalists and
scientists attending a
shop on agro
biotechnology in Lusaka, Zambia, that African plant species would disappear if GM
crops were planted in the country
as the plants would cross
biotechnology workshop, which aims to bring together scientists and
Eastern and Southern Africa to
share their experiences on biotechnology and the way forward concerning GM technology, ends today.
Zimbabwe stores about 1 800
of its indigenous crop seed varieties at the SPGRC situated in Lusaka, Zambia.
The SPGRC stores about 8 325 seed materials and 144 plant species collected from Sadc member
countries. The Sadc gene bank
stores mainly crop seed materials.
One of the fears expressed by environmentalists concerning the controversial GM technology
farmers are likely to lose
indigenous plant species through out
crossing. There are concerns that GM plants may overpower
indigenous plants and there would
then be no indigenous biodiversity.
While there are fears that GM crops would pollinate
GM crops, pro
GM scientists say pollination is
however not synonymous with
GM crops but all plants out
cross when brought together.The Zimbabwe government recently accepted
consumption of GM food
because of the severity of the food situation but has
said it would not allow the planting of GM maize.
Zimbabwe is carrying out GM plant trials to study the technology before it makes a decision whether to
use it permanently. It has,
however, been said that even if the government has proposed to quarant
ine GM maize imports, GM seeds
may find their way into
fields illegally, resulting in the contamination of the country's maize plant species.
Nkomo said: "There are these issues of genetically modified organisms which despite not being experts,
ourselves having to be
involved. Now plant genetic resources have become everybody's materials. As a consequence, we may
have to make drastic
changes to the centre to respond to the new technologies. The problem is we may not have the capacity to
t our species."
Nkomo said new international laws on property rights, which were skewed in favour of Western
multinationals who were introducing
technologies in Africa, were also threatening Sadc biodiversityAs a result of these international laws,
piracy had increased, with
Africa losing thousands of its indigenous species, which are being patented elsewhere in the West.